Published 22nd October 2019
A country of 126 million people and one of the most literate and technically advanced nations, Japan is a mystery to many people. An archipelago country made up of four major islands and 6 800 smaller islands, Japan has mountains and forests, small towns and traditional villages. Though many people know it as an urban country, it manages to beautifully blend its history with its modernity. But what is Japan known for really?
Sumo wrestling was first practiced over 2 000 years ago and today Japan is the only country where sumo wrestling is played competitively. If you are thinking of taking part in this sport, be warned: there are a few hoops you have to jump through to join the ranks of the 660 sumo wrestlers in the world. You cannot drive a car and you have to grow your hair long so it can be styled into a sumo man bun. This sumo man bun must be worn every time you go out in public, along with traditional Japanese dress. Plus, you probably want to put on a bit of weight.
Are you one of those people that sing along badly…uh, loudly to whatever song is playing in your local pub? Then head on over to Japan, considered the home of karaoke. Karaoke is a $10 billion a year industry in Japan so to say it’s a popular pastime would be a bit of an understatement. There are 280 000 bars and clubs which have karaoke facilities and 140 000 karaoke rooms, which you can rent for a couple hours, buy some drinks and sing to your heart’s content.
We have Tom Cruise to thank for this one. Samurais were part of the ruling military class from the 1100s to 1800s, but their legacy has lived on. Today there are samurai castles, museums and even a samurai-themed amusement park you can visit to play out your samurai dreams.
The bullet train
Bullet trains are what commuters all over the world dream of. With average speeds of 240 – 320 km/h, you would be able to leave your house in Cambridge and be at work in London before your coffee has cooled. Bullet trains have had 10 billion passengers since they started running in 1964 and currently have approximately 420 000 passengers daily. Even more impressive is that there have been no fatalities and there is an average delay of only 0.9 minutes per train – including delays due to natural disasters!
We’ve all seen the pictures of the snow monkeys in the hot springs, but there are thousands of hot springs around Japan. There are both indoor and outside hot springs and each has their own etiquette, but for the most part tattoos are a no-no, as is mixed sex bathing. If you can get past that, visiting a hot spring is a definite must on a visit to Japan.
Memoirs of a Geisha brought this tradition to the mindset of the Western audience. Geisha literally means “woman of art” and a geisha plays traditional instruments, dances and performs tea ceremonies. Geishas are not the everyday man though: to attend a private tea ceremony performed by a geisha costs about $2 000, plus you have to get invited by a member of the tea house.
It’s not surprising that many tourists to Japan visit at the same time as the blossoming Japanese cherry trees. They truly are a sight to behold. If you want to experience this amazing sight, make sure you check out the blossom season for where you are going – it can be as early as January in Okinawa or as late as May in Hokkaido.
Mount Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan and one of the most picturesque mountains in the world, and it’s actually a volcano. It’s one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage City. It’s considered sacred by followers of the Shinto religion and many people make a pilgrimage to reach its summit.
So to answer the question of what is Japan known for, there are eight things. But we would be here for days if we listed everything. Do love hotels, cat cafes and ramen ring a bell?